Monday, December 28, 2015

A Feliz Navidad Indeed!

Pic with President and Hermana Russell at the Multi-Zone Christmas Conference
Having a super nice dinner with all the missionaries in Rivas.
This past week was fantastic! First, we had our Multi-Zone Christmas Conference, which was awesome. Plus, President and Hermana Russell gave us all microwaves for our apartments! We also got our Christmas packages and letters from our families.

We were fed again later in the evening on Christmas Eve. Great food!
Elder Jensen, me, Elder Foster, and Elder Smith.
On Christmas Eve, this wealthy guy from Managua paid for all of the missionaries in Rivas to have a super nice dinner, and it was a lot of fun getting together with all of them. We were invited to another dinner later that evening, so we ate well.

Then, Christmas day was the best because we had a baptism (see below) and then I got to Skype with my family. Although, after I finished talking to home, I thought of a billion things that I wanted to ask about. I was a little disappointed because I forgot all my questions.

Skipping with my family on Christmas Day.
B. and his family at B's baptism on Christmas Day.
On Saturday, the day after Christmas, we had three more baptisms. On Sunday, we were able to bring 6 investigators to church and all of our baptisms made it so that they could get confirmed.  All 4 of these baptisms will be some of the strongest converts of my entire mission. They all have goals to go the temple or mission plans one year from now! All of them were "eternal" investigators that have been working with the missionaries for many months, or years, but these past 2 weeks that I have been here, it has been cool to work with them and help them take that step to be baptized. It just seemed like it was a series of miracles throughout the week after they decided to be baptized, so it turned out super awesome, so I can honestly say it was a great Christmas.

Elder Smith, along with C, J, A, and myself
at the baptismal service on Saturday.
The first baptism, named B., seemed like he was pretty much ready for his baptism on Christmas by the time I arrived here, but the other 3 baptisms on Saturday were complete, last-second miracles. So, B. was asking us a lot about tithing because he wants to buy some land next year, but in the end he told us, "if I'm gonna have enough money for that, I will have to pay my tithing and receive the blessings" -- that is just how cool he is! He took this long to be baptized mostly because he had a hard time giving up smoking cigarettes, but he quit over 2 weeks ago so that he could be baptized on Christmas, which is a small miracle, and he is still going strong. His wife is also a recent convert who was baptized about 6 months ago. She has a calling in the ward and is always cooking dinners for us, so they have become another one of my favorite families here in Nicaragua.

On Saturday, two of the baptisms are sisters -- A. and C. They have wanted to be baptized for a while, but their parents are Catholic and very against them joining the church. The sisters are 18 and 20, so they didn't necessarily need permission from their parents, but they were hoping they would still consent to their decision. Elder Smith and I helped them see the importance of baptism and faith in the Lord, and they proceeded even though their parents were not happy about it. But both of them had finished reading the Book of Mormon and knew it was true, and now they are super happy to finally be baptized! After their baptism, they asked us for Triple Combinations so that they could start reading the Doctrine and Covenants.
Three of the people that I had been working with in Masaya who all got
baptized on Saturday. 

The third baptism on Saturday was a lady named J. Her husband had been baptized about 8 months ago, but she didn't want anything to do with the missionaries for a long time. However, one of the members of the ward helped out a ton so that we could finally teach her, and another miracle -- she decided that she wanted to be baptized during the Christmas holiday as well. I also just found out from Elder Nolasco that three people in my last area in Masaya were also baptized. I had been working for 3 weeks with a couple who we committed to be married and baptized last Saturday, so I was super happy to see that they kept their commitments and also got baptized this past week. So this past week just seemed to be a total series of miracles and it turned out to be a great Christmas.
One of the cool Nicaraguan traditions is placing these dummies filled with fireworks all around town.
Then at midnight on New Year's Eve, they all get blown up. Awesome!

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Christmas Miracle in Rivas

Our District here in Rivas
So our apartment here in Rivas is pretty nice. This is our kitchen area.
This past week, we had to go to Managua for the Newbies Meeting for my companion, Elder Smith. We had to wake up at 3 AM to catch a 3-hour bus ride to get to Managua for the meeting which started at 7 AM. The meeting lasted until about 2 PM and then we caught a bus back to Rivas that was so crowded we had to stand the entire ride. It was a pretty miserable journey because I am too tall and I don't fit, so I had to hunch down the whole 3 hours back home. As for the meeting itself, Elder Smith did great in the practice sessions, and they gave us Burger King for lunch!

This is our study.
Yesterday in church I got to meet a lot of the members of the ward, and a super rich family invited all of the missionaries in Rivas over for dinner on the 24th, so we should be eating well. We also found some way positive people that will hopefully come to church next week, so the area will start going better here in a bit, but this week might be a little rough on the area with all the conferences and Christmas and stuff, ha ha.

The house even has a big backyard.
We did have something super crazy cool happen this week -- really you could call it a miracle. So this eternal investigator decided she wanted to get baptized on Saturday, and we missionaries really had no hand in it. She said she just got in the holiday cheer and decided this would be a good week to be baptized. Plus we will be having a baptism on Christmas evening, so Elder Smith and I will be having two baptisms this week! Complete miracle!! My district also has 2 other baptisms, so we will end the year with a bang and a holly, jolly Christmas!!!

We got the Christmas ambience going in our apartment.
In fact, as a mission, we achieved our mission goal of 2060 baptisms this year, and as a result, the entire mission gets to go on a trip in January to San Juan del Sur, which is the nicest tourist place in all of Nicaragua. Funny thing is that it is located in my district boundaries (although we are forbidden to go there on P-Days, sadly), so it is just a 20-minute bus ride from where I am at here in Rivas. Also, because we are so close to San Juan del Sur, they have a lot more American brand items here because of all the tourists, so I will probably take out some of my Christmas money and buy some neat stuff and more food.

So the family of our investigator who is getting baptized on
Christmas cooked us some dinner and it was actually
super good. They are very, very poor, so it meant
a lot to them.
Tomorrow we have our Multi-Zone Conference and we will be leaving Rivas about 4 AM again. The conference is supposed to be exactly like last year and we should be getting our Christmas packages from home tomorrow. Anyways, so we have people feeding us on Christmas and we should have our packages, so this Christmas should be a good one, and I won't lie, this year I'm not nearly as sad as last year. Can't wait to Skype with my family on Christmas, and I hope everyone else has a great Christmas as well!

Elder Smith, Me, Elder Foster, and Elder Jensen, who is the District Leader of the other district here in Rivas
and who was in the CCM with me.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Bienvenido a Rivas, Nicaragua!

Beinvenido a Rivas, Nicaragua!
This is one of the families in Monimbo that I will miss a lot.
Rivas is situated between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean.
Well, I was transferred this past week! My old companion, Elder Nolasco, stayed in Monimbo for at least a fourth cambio and he will hopefully be able to still baptize all of our investigators we were working with there. Leaving Masaya was a little rough for me. Many of the people we were teaching told Elder Nolasco not to come back with the new companion if it wasn't me, including the people we were preparing to baptize this month, so hopefully he and his new companion are doing OK. We were looking to have about 4 or 5 baptisms this month, and then 2 more scheduled for January. I actually cried when I said goodbye to a few of the families in Monimbo, but I am also excited to get to experience more of Nicaragua.

My "son" -- Elder Smith, is from Denver, Colorado.
So now I am the District Leader in Rivas, Nicaragua! I am also training -- my "son" is Elder Smith. He is from Denver, Colorado, and he already has half of his training completed, so I will finish his training. I had heard about Rivas before that it is a lot like Masaya -- very, very Catholic and difficult to baptize. It is also a little hotter down here than in Masaya (the people say you sweat more in Rivas because of the lake and the ocean).

There are four missionaries in our house. Elder Jensen, who started his mission with me, is the other District Leader here in Rivas, and he and his companion, Elder Foster, live with us. The house is pretty sweet as it is a brand new house. So there will be four gringos in the house for Christmas!! There is also a basketball court close to our house and they have a basketball here, so we went and played some B-ball this morning for P-Day. Wow, I lost all of my endurance, but it sure was fun!

Essentially my new area here in Rivas was just barely re-opened by Elder Smith and his first companion, so it will be a bit of a challenge to get things going here. Rivas itself is huge and my district consists of four areas: my area, and then the other three areas all have Hermana companionships in each of them. When I got here last week, they only had 5 investigators, and then when I went to meet them with Elder Smith, they all dropped us except for 1 of them... and he is a super cool guy. His wife was baptized a while back and he has been investigating the church for about 5 months now and he wants to be baptized on the 25th of December!! So that will be kind of a cool thing for Christmas.

My first weekend here in Rivas was Stake Conference. We had to travel to the Stake Center on an 80-minute bus ride, so on Saturday we left at 1:00 so that we could attend the Priesthood Session and then we stayed there for the Adult Session in the evening and we didn't leave to return to our apartment until 9:00 that night. As a result, we weren't really able to do much work in our area, and it seemed impossible that we would really be able to bring anyone to church with us on Sunday morning for the General Session of Stake Conference. But miraculously, we had 5 investigators from our area show up on their own! They were mostly old investigators who decided on their own to come, so we are going to start teaching them again. Also, this next week we will be pretty much just looking for new people to teach. We will also be looking for someone that will let us Skype home on Christmas.
This is a pretty cool sign that was on some random business here.

Monday, December 7, 2015

La Purísima

Our last District Meeting together before cambios next week.
Well, this past week was kind of a bummer. We had to postpone another baptismal service. The investigator said she wanted some more time. She doesn't feel she is quite ready yet, and she wants her son to be baptized with her. However, her son has very little interest because he attends a Catholic school on a scholarship. Well, we have another baptism scheduled for next Saturday of the mother of the girl that was baptized last week.

This is another typical dish that we eat called "Tijadas with Gallo Pinto."
It is pretty good and tastes a lot like potato chips, but without
any salt or grease. 
This past week, we also had the AP's (Assistants to the President) come down and help out our zone. I got to work all day on Friday with Elder Kleiner and it was pretty fun. He got to see firsthand how difficult it is to contact new people right now because of all the Catholic celebrations. The fiestas have been crazy, and I think today might have been the actual day of La Purisima, which is the biggest Catholic holiday of the year. There have been all sorts of parades, singing to the Virgin Mary inside of houses (similar to caroling), and tons of firecrackers all day long. We were lucky that today was P-Day because it would have been very difficult to get much work done. Still, these parties last most of the month and continue on through at least Christmas Day.

This coming week we have cambios, and everyone is pretty sure my companion will be getting transferred because he has already been here quite a while. So next week I will probably have a new companion. Also, one of the Zone Leaders is finishing his mission and going home, so there will be a few changes in our district and zone. Last Friday was our last Zone Meeting and there are 3 missionaries finishing their missions and going home, so we had a cake and took some pictures. Sorry, but that's all I have time for this week. Love you guys!
The Masaya Zone